WebKitGTK+ Gets Security Updates

My recent blog post On WebKit Security Updates has attracted some not-unexpected attention. Since I knew poorly-chosen words could harm the image of the WebKit project, I prefaced that blog post with a disclaimer which I hoped few would miss:

WebKitGTK+ releases regular security updates upstream. It is safe to use so long as you apply the updates.

We have a stable branch that receives only bug fixes for six months, from which we release regular updates including security fixes. This is is comparable to industry standards (consider nine months of support for a Firefox ESR, or less than two months of support for a Chromium release). It is hardly WebKit’s fault that most distributions regularly release security updates for Firefox and Chromium, but not for WebKit.

I reject the notion that we should provide a branch with security fixes and no other bug fixes. Withholding bug fixes is unfair to users, and nobody expects Firefox or Chromium to do this. This feels like a double standard to me.

I also reject the notion that WebKit is too risky to update because it is not a leaf package. I provided a solution to this (carrying separate -stable and -secure packages) in my previous blog post for distributions that are very concerned about unexpected regressions. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it is not exactly rocket science.

I strongly disagree with conclusions that you should stop using WebKit wholesale. You should, however, verify that the version of WebKit offered by your distribution and used in your application is secure. That means (a) ensuring your distribution provides the most-recent stable release (currently 2.10.6 or 2.10.7 are both fine), and (b) ensuring your application is using that release rather than 2.4.x, which will also be packaged by your distribution and is used by most applications. For web browsers, check the Internet for well-known security flaws.

If your distribution is not providing a safe version of WebKit, consider switching to one that does and applying pressure on distributions that irresponsibly ship insecure versions of WebKit. I call on Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE, and other distributions to follow the lead of Fedora and Arch Linux in providing stable WebKit updates to all users, not just testing branch users.